Jesus stood before Pilate. A humble Jewish carpenter who had become an itinerant preacher was at the mercy of the powerful Roman governor. Jesus stood bound by the chains of disgrace and Pilate stood adorned in the robes of honor. The preacher was in submission and the statesman was in control—so it seemed.
Jesus had made some powerful enemies among the religious leaders in the city. Pilate had forged some powerful connections in the ranks of the ruling elite. Jesus apparently represented nothing more than a small spiritual movement confined to a relatively limited region, a movement that was embraced by just a handful of followers. Pilate represented the mighty Empire that ruled much of the civilized world.
A lowly preacher was delivered into the hands of a powerful government official. History thrust these two men against each other, but their conflict appeared to be one-sided. As events unfolded that busy day in Jerusalem, anyone watching would have given the victory to Pilate and his Empire. Before the day was done, Jesus had been brutally executed and Pilate still occupied his seat of authority.
Despite his honored status and impressive authority, despite the magnificence of his culture with all its wise laws and brilliant architecture and military might, Pilate and his Roman Empire would fade from its exalted place, left behind by the unstoppable advances of history. On that Friday morning he seemed to be in command, but his power was not the last word.
Despite his public shame, his painful wounds, his broken body, his spilled blood, and the heavy stone that sealed his corpse in a tomb, Jesus would rise up and give birth to a spiritual movement that would challenge the powers and authorities of this world for two millennia, a movement that continues to challenge the powers and authorities of this world today. On that Friday morning he seemed to be defeated, but his crucifixion was not the last word.
The turning point was Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus, it turns out, was not simply a lowly preacher who left behind the life of a carpenter in Nazareth. Jesus was, and is, the Leader of God’s Kingdom. His resurrection firmly establishes his vital place in time and eternity. All kingdoms and empires, all powers and authorities, every leader and every ruler, will not only step aside, but they will bend the knee and they will confess the supremacy of the One Lord sent by God: Jesus Christ the resurrected Savior.
Jesus’ resurrection makes everything clear. Now we know which kingdom will finally be victorious. Now we know which kingdom to support and to serve. Now we know, despite any appearances in the meantime, that citizens of God’s Kingdom will share the ultimate victory for all of eternity. Now we know that our participation in Christ’s Kingdom, no matter what the cost, is not in vain.
Because of Jesus’ resurrection, we should never lose heart, despite the apparent victories of the powers and authorities in this world. Because of Jesus’ resurrection we know that all such victories are temporary, fleeting shadows in this passing age. Because of Jesus’ resurrection we should gather on every Lord’s Day and worship, but especially on Easter.
Easter reminds us that Jesus Christ is the Living Word, the Word of Truth, and the Last Word—we need not wait for another Word from God, Christ is the fullest revelation of God’s glory. The chains that bound him and the nails that pierced him have long since crumbled. Jesus the Crucified and Risen One is seated at the right hand of God in glory! What could possibly keep us from praising him?
May God’s Spirit fill us with the power and the joy of Christ’s resurrection,
Brother Richard Foster, Pastor
Grace Baptist Church, Camden, AR